“A new generation of vicars…”

One of the more random moments of this week took place yesterday morning, at my friend’s flat in Hemel, barely an hour into a day off with some of my favourite friends. My phone rang, and having already seen an email that had suggested this call was imminent, I went off into the next room to take it.

As suspected, the withheld number turned out to be a journalist from The Independent, who wanted to interview me about being a ‘young’ trainee vicar. Recent statistics released by the Church of England had shown that the number of under-30’s entering ministry is at a 20 year high (23%),  [I count as ‘young’ because I was under 30 when I was selected – no rude comments please!] and The Independent had been keen to write an article featuring the experiences of a few of the people who made up this statistic. When preparing the press release on this news, the Church of England media team had collated a few case studies, so I was already prepped for such an eventuality.

The journalist and I had a pleasant conversation, but all the while I could hear raucous noise from the next room where my friends were getting stuck into some seriously good brunch. Occassionally, I heard snatches of conversation about me –
“It’s Wednesday, this is normally a working day for her, maybe something’s come up…”
“You don’t think it’s that interview with The Independent she mentioned? I thought she was joking! No, I’m sure it’s not…” *More raucous laughter*

Miraculously, I got through the call without too much distraction and rejoined the throng keen to make up for lost time (and lost pastries). Upon hearing what the call was about, the girls collapsed into even more laughter – of excitement, rather than derision – and asked questions about photos and the like.

So now it’s online (and will be in print tomorrow) and it seems to have turned out ok – I hope the other youthful ordinands and clergy feel it has too.

A new generation of vicars Personally, I’m very glad that the chosen photo is of the curate from Call the Midwife. An interesting choice, as it also harks back to the last era in which those in their 20’s were regularly selected for ordination. 

However, I do have a few clarifications. (Always the way, when talking to journalists, especially on the phone while there’s noise in the background!):

1. Not ‘all’ my lecturers are on Twitter. The vast majority are, and there is theological banter (looking at you Lincoln Harvey, in particular!), but there are also Twitter refuseniks. [It’s my own fault, I probably forgot to say ‘most of…’]
2. I did not help to run a young women’s vocations day – I helped out at it. An important distinction that I think the true organisers of the day would appreciate. There is a huge difference between months of planning, and simply creating a few prayer stations; pouring tea; and talking to a lot of people!

Such are the joys of journalism, I suppose!

Also, anyone else baffled by the reference to ‘wing tips’ in the headline? My brief Google suggests that it’s a footwear reference, but it’s definitely not one I’ve come across in my forays into clerical wear catalogues…

Feminine Friday Fun

– Yes, this is a belated post, which, though it looks like it was written last week, can’t fool those that read this on RSS. No, this post wasn’t written last Friday – I didn’t get chance amongst the whirlwind that was my social life – but I didn’t want to leave it till the end of this week.
– Also, if you are male and of a sensitive disposition, this might be a bit much for you. No apologies.

According to the Guardian, Kotex have got on the wrong side of the American media by having the temerity to use the word ‘vagina’ in TV commercials for sanitary products. Even after swapping the biological term for ‘down-there’, two TV networks still wouldn’t run the ad. We (or rather Americans) live in a funny, screwed up world…

This article led me to a very random YouTube channel which basically promotes one of Kotex’s new lines [other sanitary products are available…] using utterly hilarious (and often improvised) ads. My personal favourite would have to be this one, taking the mick out of every stereotype used in the ads TV networks do think are appropriate. White leotards? Check. Dancing? Check. Flowers? Check. Mysterious blue water? Check.

Even better was the improv in the feminine hygiene aisle of a grocery store, where a guy asked passing customers for advice on what product he ought to buy for his girlfriend. The advice from other guys is hilarious…“What about long ones?” “I don’t know, is your girlfriend tall?” or, the comment from an old lady when asked why they used cardboard “well it’s a man’s world, men make things that are stupid”. Classic.

It’s especially amusing that whilst this is being banned stateside, we in Britain are being treated to a mysterious line of adverts for loveyourvagina.com. Posters on the tube use all kinds of euphemisms to attract attention – only this morning I spotted a man stop and look intently at one at Baker Street – it was very much like this one, spotted by Jimmy Carr and posted on Twitter with the caption: “Saw this poster on the tube. Not sure what I’m meant to do? Guess I’ll just type ‘vagina love’ into google see what happens.”

The product in question? The ever amusing Mooncup of course! Good on them for creating a bit of a sensation. Though, I notice from their Twitter stream that apparently you can’t show a tampon on an ad that’s being used on the underground, so it seems we too have our issues…

PS – Just in case you feel this is a rather random topic for a post, I decided last year after discovering the situation in Zimbabwe and the Dignity! Period campaign that it was stupid to get hung-up on such a mundane, everyday topic. It’s attitudes like those held by TV Execs that helps exacerbate situations like these, simply because of embarassment.

Points of View

Early last week I had an e-mail from a university housemate who I’ve not seen since graduation (he returned home to the States) – my only point of reference for what he’s been up to has been Facebook. The point of the e-mail was to highlight the website he’s created but also bring to the attention of his former classmates the controversy it seems to have been generating.

His site – Mondokio International News – aim’s to provide a ‘world’s eye’ (the Italian translation of ‘mondokio’) to news stories. Essentially, its ethos is that you can’t fully understand an individual news story unless you can hear a range of perspectives on it. The site consists of translations, back-stories and other material from around the world relating to major (and minor) events.

It’s a very sensible idea. I’m kind of surprised that no one thought of it sooner. The historian in me realises that you can never take one person (or even one country’s) viewpoint on an event, because it will always be tainted with some kind of bias. In fact, you don’t need a Masters in history to know that – I believe it’s pretty much the first lesson you learn in the subject at Secondary School.

However, it seems some disagree with me. My friend recently wrote an article about the project for a local magazine in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The editorial for the publication read:

One quote from the article reads: “Bias is simply the application of a point of view. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. What is wrong is the belief that one culturally-specific perspective has more intrinsic worth over another”. Oh, how I wish I could believe in this statement. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world? The fact of the matter is it isn’t—and the powers that be should accept that every perspective from every country can’t and shouldn’t be given the same degree of respect and legitimacy for reasons too obvious to mention. Anyone remember the phrase—‘Respect has to be earned?’ Consider the world today. Must I really go into detail?

The argument seemed to be that we shouldn’t be giving too much credence to the points of view of nations such as Iran or North Korea, because they are undemocratic governments and thus do not deserve our respect. But surely in context, their views have just as much worth as anybody else’s?

Perhaps we Brits take this for granted. We are lucky to have a choice of media outlets, that although ranging in their political leanings, give us the opportunity to read a variety of perspectives and don’t censor events. I think it says a lot for our press that when another American friend was living in Mozambique during the last election, he was using the Guardian & BBC to keep up to date with the latest news, rather than American sources.

I’m not America (or American) bashing, but perhaps the problem of being such a large nation is that it results in a tendency to be insular. Europeans are aghast when they hear how many Americans don’t have a passport, let alone travelled outside of the Americas – but do they actually need to, when their own country is so vast?

I think it was Bill Bryson that once wrote: “go to America and see your own country fall off the map”. Back in September when the tsunami hit the South Pacific I was in New York and it wasn’t until I checked the Guardian website that I learned how severe the damage was in Samoa and that it had affected Tonga too. The American news were full of the impact it had had on American Samoa. When events like that happen it’s the local press I go to – New Zealand or Australian sites for an overview and a local Tongan paper for eye-witness accounts. But I only know about those sources because it’s a part of the world I’m close to. To have different perspectives brought together in one place would definitely be a good thing.

Media in America is censored. Issues like the Israel-Palestine conflict are never reported without bias, to the extent that American issues of global publications like Time can be significantly different when articles are featured relating to it. (I can’t remember the specifics, but a few years ago the European edition included a long photo essay about human rights issues amongst displaced Palestinians which was completely omitted from the American edition.) Even in Britain, we could do with more variety in the viewpoints we hear.

Yes, there will always be bias. Yes, we should always be cautious about the motives behind different opinions. But surely, bearing this in mind, all points of view should be considered?